The Thoughts of a Frumpy Professor

............................................ ............................................ A blog devoted to the ramblings of a small town, middle aged college professor as he experiences life and all its strange variances.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

News that is Unfit to Print

I have been contemplating the new USDA "MyPyramid" that has replaced the previous USDA Food Pyramid, which in tern replaced the USDA Four Food Groups scheme of the 1970s. These concepts are an integral part of one section of my course in anatomy and physiology, so I was very interested in seeing the latest development.

Unfortunately, in my opinion this new scheme on human nutrition is heaped with far too many generalities and is geared simply towards being flashy and eye-catching. I feel this is quite problematic, as these recommendations by the USDA are important for medicine, nutrition, and all sorts of health sciences.

The original USDA Four Food Groups attempted to define the four categories of food we should try to consume in a healthy diet.... meats, fruits & vegetables, breads, and fats. This original concept was good as a starting point, but needed further elaboration to become useful.

In the 1980s the scheme of the four food groups *was* refined to become the USDA Food Pyramid. This pyramid approach attempted to provide recommendations as to quantity of each food type consumed on a daily basis. In my opinion, this food pyramid was extremely well designed and easy to follow. Unfortunately, the new "MyPyramid" is a mostly smoke-and-mirrors attempt to make nutrition "fun & friendly" for the unwashed masses who do not give a care about nutrition, do not want to put any thought or study into eating healthy, and likely will not change to a healthier eating style even with the "MyPyramid".

Basically, MyPyramid seems to "descience" the field of nutrtion into a few key catch-phrases or slogans:

1. Ya gotta get active! (the silly stairs on the side of the MyPyramid graphic)
2. Ya gotta eat healthy food! (no real data, just vague notions of eating fruits, vegetables, etc)
3. Ya gotta not eat as much fatty stuff! (it shows the previous fat/oil section as skinny, spahgetti-string strip of the mighty MyPyramid)

The above paraphrased statements represent my interpretation of what has occured through adoption of MyPyramid.... it has been DUMBED DOWN considerably. Whereas the original four food groups was a concept for a junior high/ high school audience, and the food pyramid was a concept for a high school/early college audience, the new MyPyramid is a concept designed to primairly appeal to a) preschoolers/students in elementary schools, b) the stereotypical "rah-rah" cheerleader type, and c) anyone who really doesn't give a damn about nutrition or the science of and study of diet.

The new "MyPyramid" is pretty silly, and not very useful to help with an understanding of nutrition.


Thursday, April 21, 2005

The Search is On!

Photo blogs are amazing and there are many of them. The beauty that so many people can capture with their camera is utterly amazing. Look for my favorite blogs to visit list to grow soon as I add a plethora of delightful visual blogs.

Why am I so enamored with photoblogs? I think perhaps, the explanation is contained within these reasons:

1. Photoblogs ARE art.
2. Photoblogs represent a more attainable form of artistic expression for everyone. Art often is difficult to find and difficult to immerse yourself in using the more traditonal avenues (museums, art fairs, etc). Please do not get me wrong, the traditional avenues are wonderful as well, but the photoblog offers an experience that is rich and beautiful but also easier (for many) to obtain. Additionally, the ability of the "everyman" to publish their art in this manner literally makes artistic expression available to anyone with an inkling of being an artist.
3. Photoblogs are fun surprises. You get this splash of color in expression that can change frequently.
4. Photoblogs are so different from my daily world of science and research that to gaze at a good photoblog is very soothing and rejuvinating to my soul.

Consider examing photoblogs. Again, I will soon add several to my favorites list.


Tuesday, April 19, 2005

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

Even though I have visited the site frequently since adding it to my Blogs of Interest section, there is a web site that richly deserves more attention. It is the site called Apparently Nothing. It is actually what is called a "photoblog" and is absolutely stunning and creative.

Even though I am not much into photography (to take photos), I am an advocate of the beautiful art of photography. I think I shall make an update of my Blogs of Interest to include several very, very fine photoblogs. Expect the update to occur in the next week or so as I puruse the Internet. If you have suggestions of worthy photoblogs, please let me know.


Saturday, April 16, 2005

Another Sad Commentary

Below I am going to quote excerpts from an article published by the Reuters News Agency that while obviously meant as a humerous "tongue-in-cheek" article, is really, in my opinion an article that is a rather sad commentary on the state of the world.

From Reuters:

Zoo wants chimp to kick smoking habit
Officials tell visitors to stop throwing him cigarettes

JOHANNESBURG - A South African zoo is trying to persuade its star chimpanzee to kick a bad smoking habit.

Charlie, a grown male chimp and the Bloemfontein Zoo, has been picking up cigarettes thrown to him by visitors and smoking them — a habit he probably picked up by observing humans, zoo officials told the SAPA news agency on Thursday.

"Baby chimps pick up habits by mimicking adults and we think he started mimicking smokers at his enclosure which probably led to smokers throwing him cigarettes," spokesman Daryl Barnes told SAPA.

Barnes said Charlie was already showing the signs of a true nicotine addict.

"He even acts like a naughty schoolboy by hiding the cigarette when staff approach the area," Barnes said, adding that the zoo was determined to help him quit.

Barnes said the most important thing was that people stop providing Charlie with cigarettes or any other treats, noting the chimp already had three bad teeth because of all the cans of sweet soft drinks that people throw at him.

Charlie is not the only smoking chimpanzee. A zoo in the Chinese city of Zhengzhou reported last year that one of its chimps had taken up smoking and was desperately cadging cigarette butts off visitors.

* * * * *

Now, why is this so sad? Perhaps it is because it is an anti-smoking article, perhaps it is because it is an article again suggesting that human conduct and human activities are "bad", perhaps it is because it is meant to be "tongue-in-cheek" but is certainly heartfelt in its negative portrayal of humans and human intereaction with animals.

I think that if Charlie has picked up the tobacco hobby, it is a strong indication that he enjoys said hobby and should be allowed to continue. His covert activity in this regard exemplifies the negative attitude that most self-righteous sorts have about others who do not meet their own standards. A case in point I feel is that if Charlie is actually choosing to indulge in tobacco, then he most pointedly ENJOYS indulging in tobacco. Leave him alone to lead life as he feels appropriate.

When will we as a nation and as a world begin to truly realize and live by the notion that people should be able to engage in activities and behaviors that they enjoy as freely as they wish as long as they do not in doing so, impinge on the rights of others to enjoy their lives freely as well? That seems such a simple model.


Friday, April 15, 2005

The Media Conspiracy... Money

Hello Friends:

I have deceided to post a comment I sent to "Grumpy Old Man" about one of his excellent posts. Unfortunately his comments section is acting up and not allowing comments, so I thought I would post it here instead. The area in italics is the original essay he displayed. My comments follow.

A cultural shift

There's been a cultural shift in my lifetime. People come home and watch the TV news, which focuses on sensational and violent crimes committed by individuals (murders, kidnappings, arson, armed robbery) and virtually ignores crimes committed by corporations (pollution, safety violations, embezzlement), which impact many more lives. Corporate media will never mention any topic that will offend a sponsor, i.e., a corporation, possibly one that committed the crime, possibly the same corporation that owns the network. (Can you say "Conflict of interest?") Stories that show people protesting the status quo are downplayed and short-lived, and usually don't even tell the story. Most protests are never even shown. Stories that show people supporting the status quo are repeated ad nauseam. People are more afraid of violent crime than ever before, even though rates of violent crime are the lowest they've been in years.

People are easily manipulated when they live in fear.

Click here to read the entire essay.

I think your repost of the essay about the news is VERY WELL FOUNDED. It is a true culture of fear that we live in.... what fills most peoples minds are things about murders, rapes, sexual abuse.... from the news... and from all those damnable talkshows like Oprah, Phil, Sally Jesse etc. They use the fear and titilation of murder, abuse, infidelity to garner ratings because it is the easiest way to capture our attention. Yet, the rate of these problems (although not as low as we might like) are extraordinarly low. A case in point... the sex abuse scandal in the US Roman Catholic Clergy. If you were to look at the statistics.... what you find is that the rate of sexual abuse in the RCC clergy is THE SAME as it is in the rest of society.... a very, very miniscule fractional percentage. If we were to pull out the data for Lutheran ministers the rate would be the same. If were to pull out the data for Jewish Rabbi's the data would be the same. Even if we were to pull out the data for the "holier than thou" Southern Baptist preachers, the rate would be the same.

The point is the media wanted a "sexy, captivating, controversey" to rile up people's emotions about. And because their is already still an anti-catholic bias in many parts of our country, and further still because being anti-catholic is one of the few ways people are still allowed to act bigoted about without negative repercussions, the media created a SCANDAL!!!!! Low and behold their ratings improved, they made more money, and the people were generally happy because people like personal scandal that is not happening to them.

At the other extreme, scandals such as what the gas companies do(gouge us dry), the chemical companies do (pollute us until we are sick or die), what the goverment does (lie and manipluate us to vote against our nation's best interests)..... ARE NOT as widely covered by the media.... BECAUSE:

1. They are not as "sexy and provocative"
2. They affect a WIDE RANGE OF PEOPLE and not just a small cluster (like the sex abuse scandal, Michael Jackson's Trial, etc)...if too many people are affected, then too many of them will turn off the news... because they lose that feeling of superiority (it didn't happen to me) and start to fear it could be something that is happening to them.
3. They cause introspection and thinking in people.... which the media and government damn well DO NOT WANT US TO DO.

They would prefer us to continue to be nonsense consuming, quiet little
mice who follow the lead of those in power.

It is bullsh*t and it infuriates me.


Monday, April 11, 2005

Stupid Parents (of College Adults)

Today's post is going to be simply a rant. I am furious at the way some parents (of college aged (adult)) students can be. Some are idiotic, holier-than-though, pompass-jackass people who think that they can push and shove and bowl their way through any situation to get what they "think" (I use that term very, very loosely) their son/daughter deserves. Well, I can tell you that I'll be damned if I am going to cow-tow to any such bullsh*t from any parent of an adult colege aged student.

First.... PARENTS SHOULD NOT INTERFERE WITH A COLLEGE LEVEL STUDENT'S ACTIVITY... other than the parent talking to the STUDENT about what he/she is doing. There is no way in hell that any parent should call any instructor/professor/faculty member UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, much less to bitch at them.

People (especially PARENTS of college aged adults) who think that they are so damn special that the world should revolve around them and every one else should do their bidding need to be taken down a peg or two.

My particular instance:

As my role in the faculty, I often will advise students about courses they should take in their science degree, epsecially those students who are pursuing post graduate education (Ph.D. studies, medical school, dental school, etc). Mostly I do this because I have a better grasp of what students need to get into their post-graduate education in science than do the university advisors. In this role, I occasionally interact with parents of PROSPECTIVE students as well. This is fine and good, but some parents are so damn cocky and deluded that they think their little "angel" is the next Charles Salk, or the next Louis Pasteur.... and they think their child should be handed everything on a platter.

Well, today, this utter yahoo of a parent writes me a scathing letter because his little precious daughter did not get the classes she wanted because they filled up prior to her registering for them. Ah-ha, I say, as I write back to him, the summer course offerings for these two courses are still open and there are seats available. No, the idiot replies, my daughter does not want to take classes this summer, she wants them in the fall. My mind spins.... WE NEVER OFFER THESE CLASSES IN THE FALL... only in the Winter and in the Summer... it has been that way for 25 years at this University and is based upon course needs, budget, I explain this as calmly as I can to the imbicile, but he then pulls his holier-than-though attitude and states "my daughter did her part, so you at the University should do its part and make those classes for her". I said, yes, sir, we do just that... she can register for them this Summer or in the Winter of next year. NO! he replies, "I want it in the Fall!".

I will leave to the imagination what I said under my breath. I had to quit writing to this fellow because he is rude, obnoxious, and condescending and there is no way in hell that I need that in my role... and no one needs that in any way. The problem is the assh*le will likely cause a stink in the administration and then they (the fools they are) will make grief for our department.

I need a drink (or several) and a pound of pipe tobacco!


Friday, April 08, 2005


I am feeling restless and unfocused. All I seem to want to do is play. It is enjoyable at the moment, but there is likely hell to pay with my slack work attitude catches up with me and I am inundated with assignments to grade.


Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Inept Slacking

I am not sure where my mind is at. It is most likely because it is April and I am itching for a change in routine, but I have virtually no motivation for things work related. Let us see what has been my routine for say the last 4 days:

Friday: Instead of grading exams, drafting grant applications, and writing lectures and exams as was my plan for Friday, I instead walked around campus with the notion of taking photographs. But even that was limited as it seemed to require too much focus. Instead, I spent most of the morning sitting outside of campus on a bench, smoking my pipe and reading. Not reading something research/science related, mind you, but instead, I read a rather flimsy detective novel. Then in the afternoon, I went to visit my elderly father-in-law and we chatted and drank ourselves silly and smoked pipes and cigars. Finally, in my pleasant state I ended up going to the barber for a haircut and beard and moustache trim... mostly so I could swap wild tales with him and expound on life with my boozy breath.

Saturday: Instead of performing the house/yard tasks I had planned for the day, I instead went for a long drive. Upon returning from said adventure, where I parked myself in the woods and smoked my pipe and read, I came home and watched some of the sadness about the pope, but growing restless I went for another long drive, this time with my wife. Upon our return, I bedded my wife, and then we puttered around the house for a while, not interested in accomplishing anything. She was much more focused on accomplishing tasks that I was, and left me to my own devices for the afternoon, but after an enormous dinner, I was able to coax her into bed again before we watched "North by Northwest" on Turner Classic Movies. Finally we fell into bed, and we bedded again... a "three star" day, which has not occurred for quite some time.

Sunday: After struggling to get to 6am mass (I was not in a mood for crowds and this very early mass is usually sparsely attended), we had planned to go shopping and planning for this year's major yard tasks. However, again, I was not motivated to accomplish anything "work" related, and ended up coaxing my wife to sit around at a local coffeehouse/bookstore and we wasted the better part of the morning before we went to eat a huge breakfast at roughly 10:30. When we arrived home, the house was empty again, and even though my wife was again hopping to do some needed work around the home, I first coaxed her into the bedroom where we again enjoyed each other's company. Being the kind wife she is, she could tell that my mind was not on goals and work, so she encouraged me to go explore (so she could get some work done... both housework she had planned and career work she needed to finish prior to Monday morning). I *should* have also been working on those goals.... it was time for the extensive monthly vacuuming of our home (we vacuum weekly, but my wife is responsible for the quick vacuums, I am responsible for the multi-hour extensive (hyper) vacuuming and spot-cleaning, and stairs cleaning that we have assigned on a monthly basis. But again, I was not in any frame of mind to accomplish anything worthwhile, so I went on a trip to a very nice sporting goods store to look at fishing gear and hunting gear. After talking and bullshitting with the fellows in the store for the better part of two hours, I left and again found a park bench to sit at and enjoy a few bowls from my pipe. I am not sure what was happening, but for some reason, I was EXTREMELY enamored with my pipes and pipe tobaccos all weekend. And, as I sat there on the bench for an hour or so, I soon grew tired of the detective novel and began to sit and day dream. I sat and fired up several bowls of rich tobacco leaf, and focused intently on the myriad of pleasures and sensations as I would draw in a lungful of the creamy, rich smoke. I would purposefully be especially aware of the delightfully chalky feel of the rich smoke in my lungs, I could sense the surge of the beloved nicotine in my bloodstream and feel that blood as it fed into my brain causing gentle relaxation and pleasure. Nicotine binds to receptors in the region of the brain called the hypothalamus and is a pharmacological agent similar in function to the naturally produced brain endorphins. After being lost in thought and experience on that beloved neural pathway, I eventually headed home, where I again felt the randiest of urges and coaxed my wife into another bedding session.

Monday: Similar lack of motivation for work. Instead I again sat outside the building containing my office and laboratory and saturated every cell in my body with lovely pipe tobacco smoke. After the saturation, I moseyied over to the library, but instead of heading to the "Q" section where the majority of biology research journals and texts are located, I went in another direction to the area of literature and began thumbing through the University's collection of biographies on Hemingway, Steinbeck, and Faulkner... three of my very favorite writers of literature. I went back to my office to teach my two classes, but then hurried back to the library and spent the day exploring these author's lives. I eventually left in the afternoon with 4 books about Hemingway checked out in my name, and proceeded home.

That is it in a nutshell. I am not sure what the meaning of this 4 day "weekend" is other than to say 1) I renewed and deepened my love affair with nicotine, 2) I was in quite an above average state of arousal sexually, which was enjoyable for both myself and my wife, 3) I did not do a helluva lot (if any) of valuable work, and 4) I had many "large" and occasionally boozy conversations/encounters with people and non-science texts. What if anything do you make of these four days? I enjoyed them a great deal, but they are not sustainable, for I would get no work done. But is work over-rated? Who knows. I am not sure, but I am not certain I am through this phase, as I have not accomplished a damn thing today either. Comments greatly appreciated.


Saturday, April 02, 2005

A Sad Change

Pope John Paul II has passed away just a little while ago. He was a great and moral leader for those of us who are Roman Catholic. His work has been enormous and his impact long-lasting. He has been the Pope since 1978.

He is loved by millions. He is a man worthy of emulation. I am sad for us here that we will not have his physical presence any longer, but I am pleased for him that he can now begin his next journey.

He will be greatly missed.


Friday, April 01, 2005

Under the Weather, but now Better!

Unfortunately I became quite ill with bronchitis/laryngitis on Tuesday and actually did not teach on Wednesday because of the illness. Fortunately, it was a relatively short-lived malady and with some antibiotics I now feel back in top form. I believe it is my semi-annual cold that occurs each transition from winter to spring and from fall to winter. In my area, this is an all-too-common refrain. I believe that for those of us in the north, our bodies go through a fairly rigorous acclimation phase each fall and spring to have our bodies be as well-suited as possible for the environmental conditions. This is much akin to how many wild beasts will grow a denser, heavier coat for winter. I do notice that my beard and moustache grow more coarse and bushy during the winter months, so I suspect it is all part and parcel for the ecosystem I inhabit.

With small glimpses of spring occuring every few days (high temperatures approaching 50 at least once a week, some of the brown matte of grass peeking out from under a snowbank) and the end of the semester in sight, it is a good time to be happy.

And, happy I am today. I shall go visit my elderly father-in-law for some much needed R&R with potent elixers and pleasant leaf. Have a grand weekend!